Two of Rotherham’s major players, fly half James McKinney and back row forward Alex Rieder, return to the side for Saturday’s clash against Yorkshire Carnegie at Clifton Lane in Round Six of the British and Irish Cup.
The Titans, who have already qualified for the quarter finals having won Pool 2 and also pocketed £10,000,need only one point from the Yorkshire derby to claim a home tie in the last eight.
However, coach Lee Blackett warns:
“You can’t go into a match aiming for a point. We need to treat the game as any other. This is a Yorkshire derby and there is great rivalry between the clubs.
“Carnegie have a good line out,an excellent scrum and good defence, and since Tommy McGee took over as coach, they are attacking more.
“We’ve developed a lot since we last played them earlier in the season and we have improved as a team. Tomorrow will be a massive challenge.”
With five consecutive wins in the B and I Cup, Rotherham will start as favourites against a team that are gradually showing signs of better form.
While Yorkshire Carnegie, who changed coaches last month after a miserable start to their Championship campaign, they have performed satisfactorily in the B and I Cup with four wins in five games.
Indeed, they could still qualify for the last eight; Rotherham, though, will be justifiably confident of delivering another decent display against the Headingley side who’ve been beaten twice this season by the Titans.
In October Rotherham won 20-3 in the first round of the B and I Cup and then last month during one of the best defensive efforts in the recent history of the club, they overcame the Leeds club at Headingley by 6-0 in the Championship.
Interestingly, one of the few changes Blackett has made to the squad for tomorrow’s game sees the selection at hooker of flanker Tom Preece who has scored five tries in the last two cup games.
“Tom has played in this position before and we may think of using even more in the front row. Only recently, he played 65 minutes against Bristol in the league game and did well, so he is used to hooking,” says Blackett.
The recall to the starting line up of McKinney, Rieder and winger Curtis Wilson, who has been absent for two weeks with a knee injury, gives these players important game time before the Championship programme resumes on Boxing Day at Clifton Lane against Moseley.
Centre Joel Gill comes back at the expense of Lloyd Hayes and he will combine with Jordan Davies whose form has been impressive in recent games.
Having achieved five successive victories so far in the B and I, Rotherham are in no mood to let up now even though they are through to the last eight; a home tie in the quarter finals would be greatly to their advantage and would increase their chances of reaching the semi finals.
Rotherham Titans: Scanlon, Keating, Gill, Davies, Wilson, McKinney, Mitchell, Gadd, Preece, Tampin, Parker, Maddison, Argyle, Birch, Rieder.
Replacements: Matthews, Hislop, Thiede, Thomas, Ryan, Barrett, Dowsett.